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Predatory Coaches and Soulless Doctors: Who to Trust When Trying To Conceive

This morning I saw two posts with very different messages, but they both concerned me. One post was by a woman who was frustrated with predatory coaches peddling "natural" fertility methods. She said her baby was made with SCIENCE (there was a lot of capitalization in the post), not diet, supplements, or meditation. The other post was written by a woman who wrote about functional fertility treatment compared to standard treatment options. She was essentially saying fertility doctors don't treat fertility cases holistically, and functional fertility is superior.

I can absolutely agree with certain points each woman made. I have seen dozens of random fertility coaches with zero credentials providing low-impact, sometimes dangerous tips for getting pregnant. And many of them charge $$$$$$$, which absolutely is predatory. I get that.

I also understand that standard fertility treatments do not encompass the whole range of treatment options and can sometimes jump a little too bit quickly to medication. I understand that sometimes women and couples trying to conceive feel like their problems are overlooked by their physicians.

I really do get the points the posts were trying to make, and to a certain degree, I agree with them. However, the part that frustrated me to the point of writing this post is that it's not a competition. Treatment options don't need to be so black and white. Why not use the best of both worlds?

The first post author relayed her thoughts that coaches who suggest there are "natural" fertility options put the blame on the woman trying to conceive. It suggests she is not doing something right, and her actions are the cause of her infertility.

Okay let's slow down here. On the one hand, there are many cases of infertility that cannot be addressed with "natural" methods. I don't care how many balanced meals you eat, you cannot address structural abnormalities or chromosomal abnormalities with diet. On the other hand, many individuals can benefit from nutrition therapy and other techniques. There is "SCIENCE" supporting the efficacy of nutrition. It's not an opinion. The fact that there are dietary options does not mean it's the individual's fault for not getting pregnant. No one has a perfect diet. There is no known perfect fertility diet, so I certainly don't think it is someone's fault for not eating perfectly. It just isn't possible. If you have a vitamin D deficiency or PCOS, it's not your fault, but YES, there are some wonderful ways that nutrition can be beneficial. This author made her case by playing science and nutrition against each other.

The other author did the same by pinning medicine and functional fertility methods against each other, however in this case, she belittled medicine.

GUYS. Nutrition and medicine are not opponents. They are not enemies. There should actually be a significant amount of overlap as good nutrition should be based on scientific evidence. It is not IVF versus broccoli.

In the end, utilizing assisted reproductive technology (ART) and nutrition at the same time may not be for everyone. Doing both may be overwhelming or too expensive, and that is completely fair. What isn't fair is the condescending rhetoric I see thrown around on social media constantly. If I believed many of the posts on Instagram, I would come to these conclusions

-People who try to get pregnant "naturally" are too dumb to understand science and are likely being manipulated by some wacko influencer.

-People only using ART to get pregnant are being manipulated by Big Pharma and evil doctors.

Clearly, I don't believe either of these statements. Most people struggling with infertility do a massive amount of research. They are generally informed and capable of critical thinking.

Individuals and couples struggling with infertility should feel comfortable using the resources at their disposal without fear of judgement.

Furthermore, I believe these resources can complement each other well. No reasonable doctor will scoff at the importance of preconception nutrition. The reason physicians typically do not spend hours discussing nutrition is simply because it is not their job. They likely have limited time to spend discussing nutrition, so they hit on important topics like folic acid, vitamin D and iron. Obtaining further nutrition counseling is not anti-medicine.

I am a dietitian and my husband is a doctor. We have overlapping, but very different knowledge bases. I know that not all ailments can be treated with nutrition, just has he knows medicine has its limits as well. The two are better together. Neither IVF nor nutrition can guarantee any outcome. Let's stop polarizing the fertility community by judging one another's treatments. If you would like to maximize your nutrition and medical care, I have provided a few suggestions below.

-Start with your physician. Your physician should be the one to make any medical diagnoses. If your physician is unable to make a diagnosis, it is helpful to have some conditions ruled out.

-Ask your physician if your diagnosis can be affected by lifestyle adaptations.

-Find a new physician if you feel they provide biased or poor medical care. This does happen, but there are hundreds of caring, intelligent physicians out there.

-Don't expect your physician to have all the answers. Your doctor specializes in medicine! They may not know the answers to all of your questions.

-Find credentialed practitioners who specialize in fertility for alternative needs.

-If you want to utilize nutrition therapy to get pregnant, find a registered dietitian. RD's are the only nutritionists who should give nutrition advice related to medical conditions. There are many subspecialties in nutrition, so ensure they are familiar with reproductive nutrition. If you want more integrative and functional nutrition- find a registered dietitian who specializes in integrative and functional nutrition.

-Ensure any other help you receive is from someone with the correct education and experience. Here are a few of the qualified practitioners who can add value to your fertility team. Just makes sure you look into their specialties!

  • Obstetrician Gynecologist

  • Reproductive Endocrinologist

  • Registered Dietitian

  • Licensed Mental Health Professional

  • Physical Therapist

On the flip side, be cautious about "coaches" with vague, unheard of, or no other credentials. Some people become coaches after undergoing fertility struggles themselves- this experience is enough to be a friend and add social support, but I wouldn't take health advice or spend money on these uncredentialed"coaches." Also, not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The word nutritionist is not a protected term, and poor nutrition advice can be harmful and even decrease your chances of conception.

Medicine and Nutrition are on the same team. Do what is best for you, but understand they both offer amazing benefits together and apart.

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